Aging, Compassion, Existence, Philosophy, Time, Wisdom, Writing

Time – I wish I had more!

I wish I had more time in the day. As I get older, I feel that I have less and less time to do the things I want to do. Is this happening to you?

A part of me thinks this is because I’m making choices to do things that take up much more of my attention, such as my research in the lab, blogging, and trying to eat healthy (preparing your own food takes lots of time).

Ah, the joys of responsible living. Well, I guess the follow-up question would be what would I like to spend my time if I had more of it?

Well, for starters, I would like to read a novel. I haven’t read a fiction novel in months. That’s kind of sad for someone like me who is an avid reader. I love to read. If I had more time, I’d also love to get more exercise and be outside to enjoy the weather.

Maybe all of this lamenting these past few weeks are symptoms that I need to stop and smell the roses (i.e., go on vacation). Stop working for a bit.

I’ve been in a kind of information overload in the research. I’m spinning off in a new direction for my projects, and it requires so much energy to carry this thing off the ground, i.e., collecting data, running experiments, preparing for grants, that I’m feeling the need to relax, just a bit.

… I do sleep well, which is awesome!

There’s the sense that time is speeding up in my life. Going faster and faster, maybe like water down a drain, or air up into a tornado. I think for some people this would be frightening, very, but I’m simply fine with it. I guess it’s normal and I’m enjoying the journey! We know where it ends for the most part. 

Career, Existence, Philosophy, Problems to Solve, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

Expired Air, Now

Yes, absolutely true. I’ve been a bit of a whirlwind of life circumstances, more than I’d have the energy to post on a blog (and perhaps don’t want to put out in public).

Suffice it to say, I’d like to yell at the top of my lungs and say to myself, “okay, whatever…”. Seriously, why put so much stress and anxiety into things when you know, beyond doubt, that it’ll be fine in the end.

Fine, fine, what’s going on?

Well, I’ve got two metaphorical fires I need to stamp-out at work. No problem, I can handle them with my hands tied. There are, however, some issues that require my utmost attention.

I’m like a computer that has used up its working memory. Bogged down. It’s not an issue of life difficulty; it’s an issue of life giving me too much to do. Going to stop writing now–

–and breath. Talk soon, friends.

Academia, Compassion, Existence, Faith, Missions, Pain, Philosophy, Thinking, Time

Please, don’t jump

Life is hard: this understatement comes to my mind whenever I hear news from a friend about a tragedy in an individual’s life. There are some situations in which there appears no escape, like being trapped on the roof of a burning building. I guess you could jump off the side and end it quickly.

What would I do in an impossible situation?

I hear of a friend who has lost her job, she’s 58, single and has to stay home to care for her sick mother (who has dementia). She’s depressed and lonely, as many of us would be in such a situation.

I also learn of a colleague who has a broken family because of a husband’s mental disorder, and she is trying to keep it together. She doesn’t have control over the situation and can only grasp what she can, her kids and finances (maybe not the finances so much anymore).

So much, craziness in this life. I wish I could wave a wand and say it would all be better if they would “wait a bit longer”, but that isn’t a genuine answer. The truth is, I don’t know if a person’s situation gets better in this life. Suffering is the norm, not the exception for people.

I listen to them, more than speak, because it’s the best I can do. In general, I know my mouth can’t speak too much lest I give them something they can’t handle right away.

And that is the Truth. It comes back to the burning building. You’re trapped on the roof, the smoke is rising, darkness filling up all around. I would say, if I could, that the escape route is up.

Faith, Humor, Memory, Thinking, Uncategorized, Wisdom, Writing

Baptism by ink?

I have a confession to make, and it’s one I’ve not told many people. I love fountain pens, and there have been consequences.

I’ve got nimble hands, which is useful in my line of work (as a neuroscientist). I first learned I had a gift for fine motor ability when I was 3 years old and figured out how to tie shoe-laces just by watching my mom do it. I was able to do it in one try.

Now, here’s where it goes all wrong. I got prideful. I forgot I had this gift, and when you have a talent and misuse it with things it’s not meant for, the result is humiliation or worse. In my case, it was worse.

I had become very good at twirling pens between my forefinger and middle-finger, sort of like a cheerleader’s baton, except with a small writing instrument. I’ve done it well, and back in high school, I was a master.

At that time, I also discovered fountain pens. Oh, what a cool little toy. You pull a fountain pen out of your pocket to take notes in English class and you’re a brand new person. You are different–when I reflect on this now, however, it was kind of an odd-ball thing to have–but I’m older and more mature (yes, I am!) so I have the freedom to smile at these memories.

A Lamy 2000, best pen ever...discovered

I was sitting in English class and was listening to a lecture, but not really paying attention, twirling a pen around. Spinning and spinning, like a smoker absentmindedly tapping ashes into an ashtray. You see, I was practicing. Always practicing for some big show. Of course, I guess some shows aren’t meant to be shown.

Someone turned, maybe to pass a love note to their neighbor and glanced at me, then laughs. But it wasn’t a laugh. She was choking like it was a burst of laughter, only repressed.

I realized I was twirling a fountain pen. And it was uncapped! I felt something wet on my face, my neck…. My hand came away with blue smudges when I tried to feel what it was.

My English teacher unmercifully asked in front of thirty-or-so of my peers if I needed to step outside and use the bathroom. Well, being in the back (I liked sitting in the back of the class) I had to walk through the aisles, past several occupied desks, and across the front of the room by the blackboard to the exit. I could hear the laughter, giggles and whatever muffled jokes were being told right outside in the hallway.

I thought it was game over when I arrived at the bathroom. I would just take my time, and slip back into the room unnoticed. Nope. I was punished a second time.

The volume of laughter, ridicule and hilarious comments increased when I came back into the classroom. Apparently, I had scrubbed myself so hard my skin had become red and splotchy; in exactly the same locations as the worst of the splattered fountain pen ink.

I had learned a big lesson that day.

Fountain pens are fun, but must be handled with care and respect. Cap ’em when not used for writing!

Academia, Coffee, Compassion, Missions, Neurological Disorders, Problems to Solve, Spinal Cord Injury, Writing

Steadfast, moving forward

I failed to meet my goal to maintain a posting frequency of one per day. I knew it was unrealistic given the workload I have in the lab. My well-being improves when I’m away from a computer as well (i.e., long-term desk work is bad for your health). Don’t get me wrong, I can be a prolific writer. I can dump my thoughts on a page and have you all read my freely associated mind boggles straight-up like a shot glass of 200 proof ethanol. Yes.

In other news, I’ll just say that drinking coffee chronically and then stopping abruptly is dumb. I couldn’t keep my head above my shoulders for more than 20 minutes this weekend. I’m back though.

In the lab today…

I presented my research to about 20 of my peers, including the director of the research Center. I’m happy to report that I’m alive with my ego intact. I’m at peace with my ideas; the tearing and gnashing of my conceptual approach did not happen. So, now that I’ve got the proverbial green light to continue moving forward, I shall.  I’d like to thank my friend, mswestfall who authors the blog My Unplanned Life, for her moral support over the weekend.

Now, I’m moving forward with writing a cover letter to an editor of an academic journal. I’d like to submit my report for publication in this journal. It would be really kind of them to accept my work there, because that would get the word out about what I do in the lab. It’s such a pleasure when people hear what you have to say, understand it, and then somehow apply it. Feels good to know my thinking is relevant and useful and that people agree. We’ll see….


I had a thought about how I had become steadfast in my work. Not always like this; not really. When I was younger, just a few years ago, I used to become anxious that I wasn’t doing a good enough job. I’d work hard, then I’d feel that I had done, inadequately. That was what drove me. It was a feeling of fear or anxiety in my job.

No longer true. I’m more confident than before, hence, I feel more “free” to explore my ideas, and know that should I choose, I have the technical capability to execute. This is maturity, I think, and what a silly ladder we climb. I’m not even sure I need to consider this stuff anymore. Just go. Step. This is how I live now I suppose; within this routine of work, rest, work, and final rest. Bad things happen in my job, failure in an experiment, but I keep moving.

A lesson of wisdom, perhaps. I’m pedaling a bicycle, up and down, but the end result is forward motion. I know I’m moving forward, metaphorically, because I see the anchors and milestones behind me. Alas, as a scientist, as a human, I’m steadfast, moving forward.

Compassion, Philosophy, Relationships, Wisdom, Writing

A Change Within

I’ve changed.

I woke up and checked the news as I do every morning. There is so much bad news amidst the daily stories posted on CNN or FoxNews. Oddly enough, it has begun to affect me. In the past, I would glance through these stories and happen upon one that I thought was interesting. I’d read it, then walk away.

Now I’ll go through the stories and a feeling of disgust or revulsion would wash over me. I will consciously say to myself that there is so much bad news. Where’s the good stuff?

I don’t know what has happened within me. I’ve changed. I know it’s me and not the world. The content of the news hasn’t changed.

No such thing as new “…news, just old news to new people”, I recall someone saying.  Perhaps it has gotten worse, but not so much that the bad news would alone move me. No, I think something clicked on the inside not too long ago.

I’m now more sensitive to these stories of trauma and human suffering. The world is broken into small glass shards, and I’ve finally felt what it’s like to be cut and bloody.

Some may say this is a sign of maturity. I’ve identified with the world around me and I can see our reality, a flickering high-contrast picture, flesh and blood. I don’t like it, yet there is no escape. Try as I may, I’m here now. I suppose my job is to be still and know this is it, until a new day comes.

Academia, Existence, Faith, Philosophy, Uncategorized, Writing

Writing: dark, weirdly hazy apologetics

externa scientia

I want to get a few ideas written now, quick notes, before they fade. I was outside taking a walk. It was freezing cold, but I had the urge to dwell on this topic of who am I, really. I believe that anxiety, the unnamed fear or threat we feel (perhaps when we wake up in the morning), is actually a problem of self-identity.

It used to frighten me, the unknown feelings I had. I couldn’t pin them or give the sense a name. It was dark, weirdly hazy.

I think the answer to the question “who am I?” can’t really be self-discovered. It has to be taught. Something outside of me has to teach me or reveal my identity. It’s kind of hard to explain, so let me posit a story instead:

The world has only two people left alive. They are locked in a room and can’t get out. If they had a moral disagreement on how to live the rest of their lives, there would be no way to determine objectively who was right or wrong. There would be no consensus. There is no arbiter, no third party. It would be one word against another.

This is a standstill. This is paralysis. 

When these two people meet, in this hypothetical world, and have no common point, a resolution is impossible. They eventually have to choose three basic options. First, they leave each other and live alone for the rest of their lives. Second, one removes the other from the equation (i.e., one kills the other). Third, they both commit suicide. Isn’t this a hopeless situation?

But, what if somehow, appearing from thin air, a piece of paper falls on the floor. On the paper, it is written at the top:

Stop struggling with each other. If you read these instructions carefully. I’ll let you out of the room.

My point is that in this story, my mind is the room in which the two people are trapped. In this room (my mind), there is a war between personalities, ideas, and desires. It is paralyzing. For example, today, I wake up and I think this is what I am. The next day, I feel like somebody else. The only way I’ll find my sure footing is if I realize that something else is giving me an extra option: go outside.

Anxiety is solved by going outside.